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Clayhidon Local History Group

>Annual report 2018

February 2019

Fascinating items brought to AGM 

In January we had our first meeting this year when we had our annual dinner together. Christmas time is always such a busy time so we choose to celebrate together in January.

This means that February is the time for our AGM. As we do not have a speaker on this occasion we each bring some item to speak about and pass around the group. The items are so varied and very interesting. This year they included an Edwardian garment which was most attractive and had been worn by a child. There was an 1875 dental receipt with the diagram of all the teeth. A photograph showed a carving at St Andrew’s Church, Tiverton which had been carved by the father of the member. One member had an enlarged map of the area of ‘Jacob’s City’ at Wiltown. A very heavy small stone of curious shape had been found by a member from Smeatharpe. Another fascinating little booklet was a guide for air pilots with a phonetic codes and other details.  All the intriguing objects aroused great curiosity and conversation.

It was after the coffee break that the official business took place. The officers were re-elected. The finances for last year were discussed. The Chair gave a review of the previous year which had had some interesting speakers and a very successful annual exhibition which had been greatly appreciated by the public who had come to see and enjoy it.  Plans for 2019 meetings were mentioned. Speakers are already arranged for March and April. External meetings commence in May when we will be visiting Churchstanton church and a guide will meet us. The subject for this year’s exhibition was discussed. One topic was suggested and next month we will confirm it or decide on another. In the meantime, we have a month in which to consider and reach a conclusion.

By 10pm it was time to depart after another convivial interesting evening.

August 2017
Do you recognise these faces from the past?

Clayhidon Local History Group held a most interesting exhibition once more at the annual August Bank Holiday. The church was open for three afternoons when many local people came but also visitors from much further away who came to discover something about their ancestors and also to impart information about their predecessors who had lived in Clayhidon.
It was a historical photographic exhibition and one of our members had taken great care to enlarge and enhance old photographs to which informative captions had been added. There was a small display of men who had participated in WWI and WWII. A large photograph had been found of the Clayhidon Home Guard with a surprising number of men.
About twenty individual photographs of people who are unknown were on display. Perhaps you can recognise some and identify them for us.
Recently, we have discovered a large cloth with embroidered names on it. In the centre is written CLAYHIDON VILLAGE HALL 1958. As the building was still a school until 1960, we were mystified. Now we know that in 1958, it was already realised that the school would be closed two years later, so local people probably organised by Elsie Bendle, decided to try and raise money so that the school should become the ‘Village Hall’. She did this by asking people to pay £1 and then write their name on the cloth. These were then embroidered and are a permanent reminder. The cloth was on display.
There was also a display of people who emigrated in the nineteenth century. The most notorious of these was Wilfred Shattock, born in Clayhidon, lived at Longham Dairy, whose relatives in the Nix family lived down Rosemary Lane. He was in the army but deserted and when he quietly returned to Clayhidon, thought he would be safe. The police started asking questions so he escaped and fled to Liverpool to catch a ship to Canada. He changed his name to John Nix! (His descendants are in contact with us and supplied photographs.) Recently, there has been a descendant visiting the church, from the Shire family who emigrated from Barne Farm.
Our meetings are at the Church Room on the third Thursday of each month at 7.30. You are welcome to join us at any meeting. In summer time we make outdoor visits and in winter months invite local speakers who give a variety of illustrative talks.

2017 April meeting

When Jane Austen's aunt escaped the noose
At the April meeting of the Local History Group, our speaker was Dr David Pugsley who has spoken to us on previous occasions about legal cases in Devon. This time it concerned a court case in 1800, when the wealthy aunt of novelist Jane Austen, was tried for the alleged theft of a piece of white lace. Dr Pugsley, who had a distinguished career in the legal profession, has a special interest in historical legal matters, and makes his subject come vividly alive.

The case examined this time, was heard at Taunton Assizes and was affected by the very unfair restrictions of that period. But the jury, and perhaps the judge, seemed unconvinced by the evidence of the plaintiffs and their key witness, and there was a suspicion of blackmail. The defendant, Mrs Leigh-Perrott, after waiting ‘in prison’ for eight months for
Jane Cholmeley Leigh-Perrot and (right) Taunton Castle, where she spent eight months awaiting trial.

her case to be tried, was
acquitted. Great was the joy and relief to the residents of her home city of Bath. Had she been found guilty the punishment would have been death by hanging or transportation to Australia.
The talk gave a good insight into the vagaries of court procedure of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as well as an assessment of a very human story. 

2017 February meeting.

Archive planned for hall

This meeting was the AGM. After the minutes of the last AGM had been read, it was time for a report from the Chair and the Treasurer about the previous year’s activities. The nominations were then made for officers for the coming year.

We listened next to an informative account, given by Gareth Weekes, about the proposals for the development of the Parish Hall. Facilities for the care and study of the Clayhidon archive are included in these proposals.

After coffee and biscuits, it was time for members each to speak for a very short time about some artefact which they had brought to show and pass round. As always there was a great variety of exhibits, ranging from pieces of thatching material hundreds of years old, to an ancient Book of Common Prayer. There was also a shell from the WWI with an adjustable nose cone and a silver bowl with an unusual inscription. Finally, we saw the cloth signed with more than 100 names many of which had been embroidered, and which was headed ‘Clayhidon Village Hall, 1958’. As the County school did not close until 1960, it is still a mystery why this was started two years before. It is believed that Mrs Elsie Bendle instigated it and people paid £1 to have their name on it; but the date, beautifully embroidered, is mysterious.

Clayhidon Local History Group start 2017 with their annual dinner.  

Programme for 2017
it will be the AGM when routine matters will be discussed and the plans for the forthcoming meetings and speakers will be confirmed. After the coffee break it will be the moment for members to speak for about three minutes about some, perhaps unusual, article that they have brought along to show. IN MARCH AND APRIL there will be two eminent speakers, perhaps with illustrations, to captivate their audience.
Three visits with an historical interest will follow in MAY, JUNE and JULY before we hold our annual exhibition in the St Andrew’s Church, during AUGUST . The theme this year has not yet been fully decided but members will, no doubt, be ready to suggest and to participate. During August, we may also be escorted on one of our lesser known public footpaths. 
Two bookings for speakers have already been planned for later months, which only leaves NOVEMBER vacant at present, before the CHRISTMAS party in the final month.
So we complete another very enjoyable year of local history and social enjoyment. Each year we also have local Newsletters which are very informative, colourful and produced within the group.

Who knows what about the mystery cloth?
We hold a great deal of Clayhidon information about properties, families, events, photographs etc. At present it is all being catalogued for future reference and guidance. We hold a large reference library which again is about to be recorded.
Such is our acquisition over 30 years, that only this week we discovered a large mysterious cloth dated 1958 and about which we ‘know nothing’. We would dearly love to discover more about it. More than 100 Clayhidon people knew something about it in 1958. We can prove it! It will be shown at February’s meeting. We will also have it on display at the August exhibition.

You're welcome to join us
You are very welcome to come and join us at our meetings which are held on the third Thursday of each month at 7.30 in the Church Room. We look forward to meeting you. lhgclayhidonex15@waitrose.com 

 <More Clayhidon History

All about the Group
The Clayhidon Local History Group studies the history of local families, houses and farms, records gravestones. It transcribes parish registers, census returns and the tithe apportionment and collects photographs. The group has created an up to date photographic record of all the properties in the parish.
A huge collection of material has been gathered. On permanent loan are the parish copies of the tithe map, tithe apportionment and enclosure awards. The tithe and apportionment were in a very poor condition, due to neglectful storage over the years. The History Group paid for their restoration by Somerset Record Office.

The Group, which first met on June 16 1983 has over 40 members and is run by a committee which meets monthly and invites speakers. Remarkably, over the years, attendance numbers have averaged 30 plus.

For three days over the August bank holiday an exhibition is held in the parish church. A monthly newsletter is produced. 

THE LOCAL HISTORY GROUP meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7.30 in the St Andrew’s Church Room. Its email address is



Clayhidon,a Parish in the Blackdowns

Extracts from the book published by the Local History Group to celebrate the Millennium. 
>Click chapter headings to open. 
Photos from the past >Click here
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